Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Book 2, Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of the second book of The Return of the King, Éowyn and Faramir become friends, and Aragorn fulfills his destiny. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.

CHAPTER FIVE: THE STEWARD AND THE KING

Oh god, there’s still so much that can happen. THIS BOOK ISN’T EVEN CLOSE TO BEING FINISHED WITH ME. I kind of like that the main plot is resolved, but there’s still enough going on that I’m interested by the narrative. Truthfully, it’s Tolkien’s focus on characterization that is so intriguing to me, so it’s nice that there’s a chance for other characters to have their stories resolved as well. That’s just as important for Tolkien as well, and I appreciate that!

First, Tolkien takes the time to develop both Faramir and Éowyn, stuck in Minas Tirith while the battle rages days away. There’s a fascinating parallel here that Tolkien expands on: both characters believe they are built for war, and both are stuck in the Houses of Healing. They’re both restless and anxious to do anything to help out. I admit that despite this, I never once thought of them as a couple. Of course, I don’t think I was meant to, especially since Éowyn clearly had the hots for Aragorn. AND WHO WOULDN’T. Right???

Still, I am surprised that this is even a subplot in the story. And up until the very end of it, it’s perhaps my favorite plot in the whole book, especially once she starts interacting with Faramir. They really do make a fantastic couple, and it’s not just because they have so much in common. However, I don’t want to ignore how important of a story this is: Éowyn is heartbroken by idleness. It’s something I understand quite well, and it’s appeared in numerous reviews I’ve written, too. I don’t like feeling useless. It’s why I’m so willing to get involved and to spread myself far too thin. I can’t stand the feeling of boredom or listlessness, so I’ll do almost anything to keep that feeling at bay. On top of that, Éowyn has to deal with the fact that the society she lives in believes that she has a specific role because she’s a woman, and that is something I won’t ever understand. All of this pressure to conform and stay put is just too much for her to cope with.

I thought it was INCREDIBLY ADORABLE that Faramir wanted to know about her, and I enjoyed how close they became over the days that followed as they waited for any sort of news from the company that rode out to meet the host of Mordor. Again, we’re shown how war affects those not in it, and it’s a clever addition by Tolkien to help build this environment even further. When these characters also witness the fall of Sauron and the Darkness, we get to see how this influences the relationship of Faramir and Éowyn. As the city celebrates and Éowyn is reluctant to do so, knowing she’ll have to see Aragorn again, I did find it romantic that Faramir basically puts on his best show to impress her and hopefully show her that he loves her. I don’t have a single problem with what he tells her, but her reaction to his big speech professing his love is just so strange to me.

‘I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun,’ she said; ‘and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Raiders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.’ And again she looked at Faramir. ‘No longer do I desire to be a queen,’ she said.

That’s it? Like, all someone had to do was profess their love for her, and she would give up on all of her dreams and goals? Look, just purely on the basis of character development, this makes no sense. On top of that, I don’t believe it. I can’t believe that someone who felt such an intense longing and incompleteness in their soul would simply abandon such things once some hot dude tells her he loves her.

It’s really the only thing I don’t like about this chapter. It’s just such an unsatisfying development for her character, but I wouldn’t say it overshadows the rest of chapter five. The grandeur of the King’s crowning is just ridiculous, and it’s everything I would expect from Tolkien. I would have been just as disappointed if the crowning wasn’t as over-the-top as everything else in this book. That’s not an insult towards Tolkien; this crowning is a HUGE deal for the narrative arc of Aragorn, and anything less than a gaudy, pretentious celebration would be UNACCEPTABLE. THIS IS ARAGORN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. Come on!

He was clad in black mail girl with silver, and he wore a long mantle of pure white clasped at the throat with a great jewel of green that shone from afar; but his head was bare save for a star upon his forehead bound by a slender fillet of silver.

That is more like it. I approve so hard. The speeches and introductions made are, of course, verbose and lengthy, full of references to lore and other things I barely understand because I’m still very new to this world. What I did understand is that my heart leapt with joy when Aragorn requested that Frodo bring the crown to him, and that Gandalf put it upon his head. Could this be any more perfect? Again, I just need to say how relieved I am that this story is wrapping up in a way that isn’t 100% tragedy all of the time.

For the first time in a very long time in this book, time passes rapidly. So much of The Lord of the Rings is spent in the moment. I’d just gotten used to it. That’s why I also feel like I’ve spent an entire lifetime reading this book. The sheer scope of this novel is so massive that I feel like it’s been a year since I started reading it. I knew that this was a large imagined world, but I wasn’t even close to understanding the size of it. Because of this, I’m willing to just go along with where Tolkien is taking this story. Many weeks pass in the last third of this chapter as Aragorn adjusts to his role as the King of Gondor, passing judgments on others, and generally being a lovingly fantastic ruler. Oh god, his judgment of Beregond slays me. And Faramir is Prince of Ithilien? There is just too much joy here, and after so much misery, it’s like I am overloaded with cute. I AM NEARING THE APEX OF CUTE.

Tolkien then turns to Aragorn, who keeps the fellowship close in his beginning days of ruling. Aragorn, however, makes a point to say that a certain day or thing is coming, and after that, it will be time for them all to part. Okay, I refuse to think about that day because they should all be friends forever and live in the same condo and gossip and play pillow forts until the end of time. I feel like this is a very reasonable request. I wondered what Aragorn could possibly be waiting for, and this didn’t help:

‘As for Bilbo,’ said Gandalf, ‘he is waiting for the same day, and he knows what keeps you.’

What. Now this makes even less sense. What is Bilbo waiting for? IS THIS A BAD THING? I AM WORRIED NOW. So when Gandalf led Aragorn up onto Mount Mindolluin for some unsaid reason, my anxiety flared and I expected the worst. I’ve enjoyed the almost fatherly relationship that Gandalf has had with Aragorn in this book, I was concerned that this was going somewhere I didn’t like. Instead, it’s clear that this is a passing of laurels in a way. The Third Age, as Gandalf calls it, is ending, and the “Elder Kindred shall fade or depart,” he tells Aragorn. Naturally, Aragorn is a bit disturbed by this, afraid that his own mortality is going to limit his ability to help bring forth a new age that is worthy of the humans that follow him. It’s a fair question to ask, and it’s answered in a way that I, frankly, do not understand at all. I think I missed out on the importance of the Tree in the Court of the Fountain. I remember it being mentioned, but I don’t think I really get why this sapling of an ancient line of trees is the sign that Aragorn needs that things will be all right. WAS I THE ONLY ONE WHO FELT THIS WAY THE FIRST TIME THROUGH THE NOVEL. I feel like it’s meant to be this symbolic item, perhaps maybe a metaphor, too, but I can’t claim to understand it.

The chapter ends on a much more coherent note, and it’s incidentally one that I wish more time was devoted towards the development of it. Riders from the North arrive in Minas Tirith, and they’re revealed to be those characters from Rivendell. Elrohir, Elladan, Glorfindel, Erestor, Galadriel, Celeborn, and finally Elrond and Arwen.

This makes sense as the thing that Aragorn was waiting for: his marriage to Arwen. AHHHHH THEY ARE MARRIED THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Oh god, why does the chapter end? MORE. I WANT MORE. WHY ISN’T THE DESCRIPTION OF THE WEDDING 40 MILLION WORDS LONG.

About Mark Reads

Vegan cyclist, Internet community nerd, atheist bookworm, high-five purveyor.
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5 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Return of the King’: Book 2, Chapter 5

  1. Melewen says:

    I don’t think that Eowyn’s change-of-heart is necessarily out of character, though it may have happened a bit fast. I think that in the back of her mind she’s had these conflicting ideas building and fighting, especially since being in the Houses of Healing wasn’t the torture she expected it to be. She was stuck between what she thought she wanted and what she thinks she might now want. I suspect that she was trying to make sense of all this, but maybe didn’t have the words to parse it.

    As in many cases, it’s easier to see what’s going on from the outside and Faramir (having a bit a wizard in him, as Sam would say), was able to suss out Eowyn’s inner conflict and put it into words for her. In normal circumstances, I think she’d have needed more time between his pleas and her declaration, but it was the end of the world, you know? I don’t think it diminishes her at all. The fact is, that until now, she thought she really had only two choices: to die in battle, or to die useless and trapped. All of a sudden she sees a new opportunity and, until given permission to take it, I don’t think she trusts it.

    • mangoface says:

      I totally agree!
      I think Eowyn has come to realize that death and battle isn’t the glorious picture she imagined it to be and the power in being a queen won’t make her any happier. I personally think she was more attracted to the idea of Aragorn than the man himself (although I’m sure she admired him as a person as well) and this scene was her coming to a self-understanding of that desire to be more than she was. And that desire isn’t a bad thing, but it was unhealthy because her frustrations and desire to be useful made her react more intensely than she normally might have.
      Either way, Eowyn’s a badass and she and Faramir are perfect for each other. :)

  2. Jennifer Hall says:

    I think too Eowyn finally found somebody who didn’t just feel bad for her. Faramir listened and to a degree understood her. Faramir tries to understand whereas Aragorn just really kind of brushes her off. I do agree that it all happened so quick but like someone else said, it was kind of almost the end of the world in a sense.

  3. unefeeverte says:

    I’m starting to think you’ll really enjoy the Appendices ;) Not going into details because I don’t know of you want to remain unspoiled about what’s in them, but I hope you’ll put up a reaction post.

    As for Éowyn, her response really stood out to me at my last re-read, but I’m willing to let it go because she and Faramir are so sweet together.

  4. Andróg i Ngaurwaith says:

    Upon the black surcoats were embroidered in white a tree blossoming like snow beneath a silver crown and many-pointed stars. This was the livery of the heirs of Elendil, and none wore it now in all Gondor, save the Guards of the Citadel before the Court of the Fountain where the White Tree once had grown.
    Already it seemed that word of their coming had gone before them; and at once they were admitted, silently, and without question. Quickly Gandalf strode across the white-paved court. A sweet fountain played there in the morning sun, and a sward of bright green lay about it; but in the midst, drooping over the pool, stood a dead tree, and the falling drops dripped sadly from its barren and broken branches back into the clear water.
    Pippin glanced at it as he hurried after Gandalf. It looked mournful, he thought, and he wondered why the dead tree was left in this place where everything else was well tended.
    ‘Seven stars and seven stones and one white tree.’
    The words that Gandalf had murmured came back into his mind.

    The White Tree was a symbol of the Númenoreans, and Isildur brought back a sapling of it as he fled the destruction of Númenor; he planted it in Gondor, where it was a symbol of the kingship. But the tree withered with the death of the last king of Gondor, and the dead tree was left as a reminder. Finding a living sapling was a sign that Aragorn was indeed the true heir to the throne of Gondor.

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